Conference Information: Brasilia 2009: Improving Management Of Dams and Hydropower

The International Commission on Large Dams’ 77th Annual Meeting and 23rd Congress, to be held May 21-29, 2009, in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, bring together dam experts from throughout the world to exchange knowledge and experiences. Such information exchange is vital to ensure efficient management of dams and hydroelectric generating facilities.

By Edilberto Maurer

The International Commission on Large Dams’ (ICOLD) 77th Annual Meeting and 23rd Congress provide dam engineering professionals with multiple opportunities to learn about the challenges facing the profession today and to gather the latest technical information. The annual meeting will be held May 21-24, 2009, in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Brasilia also is the site of the congress, to be held May 25-29. In addition, before the annual meeting and after the congress, delegates can take part in one or more of 11 study tours featuring visits to dams under construction and dams that have been operating for decades.

Dams in Brazil

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest country in the world. The country has several major rivers and abundant water resources, with more than 1,000 large dams. More than 650 of these large dams impound water for hydro projects; the rest were built for flood control, irrigation, water supply, and/or navigation. Brazil has a total installed power capacity of about 100,000 MW. Of this, about 77,000 MW is hydro capacity, which means the country gets 77 percent of its electricity from hydro.

Despite this large hydro portfolio, the country has enormous untapped potential. More than 80 hydro projects are under construction in Brazil, with a total capacity of about 5,000 MW. In addition, about 740 other hydro plants are being considered for development, which could add nearly 37,000 MW of capacity.

Brazil has a tradition of designing and building large dams, and the country’s engineers are recognized throughout the world as specialists in their field. The ICOLD meeting offers the opportunity to see the achievements of these dam experts and to learn the role that dams have played in developing the nation and impounding water for the generation of hydropower. Because of expertise and experience in the country in planning, constructing, and operating large dams, Brazil is a perfect setting to learn about how to improve management of dams and hydropower.

Exchanging information

Brasilia 2009 offers delegates five forums to exchange and disseminate technical information.

The most formal opportunity for such exchange is during the 23rd Congress, where four technical questions will be considered. ICOLD’s member countries chose the questions, or topics, to reflect the current concerns of dam designers and operators. Each question will receive a full day of discussion.

The first question addresses dams and hydropower, covering: the role of dams and reservoirs in the framework of renewable energy, hydropower potential, and current development; hydropower in sustainable development; planning, design, and construction of dams for hydropower; hydropower objectives in multi-purpose reservoirs; and dam design and requirement for pumped-storage schemes. The second question examines management of siltation in existing and new reservoirs. The third question addresses upgrading of existing dams. The fourth question covers dam safety management, including risk assessment methods and results, regulatory and economic issues, effects on operation of reservoirs, emergency plans and communication, and remote monitoring and control of dams. About 180 technical papers will be presented on the four topics.

A second opportunity for information sharing is during a one-day symposium on Sunday, May 24, 2009. The theme is “Dams and Reservoirs for Multiple Purposes.” About 60 papers submitted for the symposium focus on four areas:

  • Multiple benefits, such as hydroelectric generation, flood and sedimentation control, fish and wildlife protection, aquaculture, irrigation, navigation, and other permanent benefits on a river basin-wide scale;
  • Inventory of multiple uses in the hydrographic basin (the drainage basin of a stream);
  • Cost-benefit analysis; and
  • Environmental effects.


During Brasilia 2009, a five-day trade exhibition (May 25-29) showcases the achievements and advances in dam technology and construction. The exhibition is an opportunity to network with engineers, professionals, organizations, and companies connected with the design, maintenance, and management of dams. Products and services to be showcased during the exhibition include water resources management, construction, fabrication and erection of electrical and mechanical equipment, maintenance, engineering, power plant design, project finance, and much more.

A less formal, but equally valuable, opportunity is the meetings of the ICOLD technical committees. These meetings will take place Friday, May 22. At these meetings, committee members discuss various topics that could lead to the publication of future specialized technical bulletins. Topics to be discussed include the technical, environmental, financial, and educational aspects of dam design, construction, maintenance, and operation. Delegates are welcome to participate as “observers” at these meetings, which provide a valuable opportunity to learn the important issues facing leaders in the dam industry.

Finally, Brasilia 2009 offers delegates 11 technical tour opportunities, during which they will visit both dams under construction and those that have been operating for decades. The study tours, planned before the annual meeting and after the congress, let delegates learn the technical features of dams in Brazil. Eight of the 11 tours are multi-day events, and three are one-day tours. Each one-day tour, on May 23, features a visit to a dam in central Brazil: the 127-MW CorumbÁ 4 Dam, under construction on the CorumbÁ River; 105-MW Queimado Dam, which began operating in 2003 on the Preto River; and João Leite Dam, a water supply dam under construction on the João Leite River. For details on each tour, visit the website:

Itaipu Dam is one of more than 650 dams in Brazil with hydro facilities. Hydro capacity totals 77,000 MW in Brazil, host of the ICOLD 77th Annual Meeting and 23rd Congress in May 2009.

On the technical tours, delegates will visit a variety of hydro projects, including the famous 5,370-MW Tucuruí 1 and 4,125-MW Tucuruí 2 and 14,000-MW Itaipu projects.

Tucuruí Dam, on the Tocantins River in the Brazilian Amazon, impounds water for two large hydro facilities owned and operated by Centrais Eletricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. (Eletronorte). The first facility, Tucuruí 1, began operating in 1992. The second facility, Tucuruí 2, is an expansion of generating capacity at the dam. Construction began in 1998, and the project was completed in 2007.

Itaipu Dam, on the Parana River in southern Brazil, is on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The dam impounds water for a 14,000-MW hydro facility that began operating in 1984. All of the original 18 turbine-generator units at the plant were operational in April 1991, giving the plant a capacity of 12,600 MW. In 2001, owner Itaipu Binacional decided to add two 700-MW units to better meet peak demands. These two units began operating in March 2007, bringing total plant capacity to 14,000 MW.

Tours also include visits to several mid-sized projects throughout the country, both publicly and privately owned. Two examples are 333-MW Simplício and 176-MW Ponte de Pedra.

Water for the Simplício plant will be impounded by Tapir Dam, now under construction in southeast Brazil. The project, on Paraiba do Sul River, is being developed by Furnas Centrais Eletricas S.A. Work on this project began in 2006; operations are expected in 2010.

The Ponte de Pedra Dam in central Brazil on the Correntes River, impounds water for a hydro plant. The project, owned by Tractebel Energia S.A., was implemented under a 35-year government concession. Operations began in 2005.

One tour features visits to two hydro projects in neighboring Argentina: 1,400-MW Piedra del Águila and 1,000-MW Alicurá.

To register for Brasilia 2009, visit the Internet: Online registration is available, or a pdf form can be downloaded and returned by mail or fax.

Edilberto Maurer is chairman of the Brazilian Committee on Dams, which is hosting the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) annual meeting and triennial congress, known as ICOLD Brasilia 2009.

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